From CHRIS GEDDINGS
When I was in my teens, my paternal grandfather, Grandad, announced to me that tomatoes no longer had any flavor. He remembered tomatoes from when he was young, and what you could buy or grow in your garden today just didn’t compare.
My maternal grandparents had a place in the North Carolina mountains. In my teens, they lived off of part civil service pension, periodic tax work, and subsisting off of their 40 acres, where they had a few fields and some pastured livestock.
I grew up around chickens, rabbits and gardens. Nothing very extensive, but, at my Dad’s we always had fresh eggs, and never quite got the rabbits going well, but tried, and at my Mom’s we had eggs and her chickens from time to time. The gardening was never very extensive, but it put some interesting things on our table from time to time.
The goal of my life up until college was getting into college, and once I got there, I had some rather profound “what now” moments. School was shaky, but I never had a problem working. From even before my first taxed job working in the tobacco fields on, I could always go out and get things done. While I did get through college, somewhat by the skin of my teeth, and then got a decent job, I was always a bit unsettled. Unsettled and not really able to tell you why. Could have been just because I was in my 20’s, I suppose, but I like to think I was looking for something I am now finding.
A few years ago, I met a girl, a rather fantastic girl, who told me at some point “I want a cow.” I thought that was a fantastic idea. I had been gardening for several years, and was getting better and better at keeping plants alive. The more the girl and I talked, the more we wanted to unhook a bit both from the conventional job market and city life. We both are hard workers, but not so sold on the notion of selling so much of our time for things that we aren’t sure end up in what we’d consider an equitable exchange.
So, we started making soap. We are still making soap, and now trying to figure out how to turn that into our first revenue stream. We are expanding the garden dramatically, experimenting with making more things grow. We are looking for land, and trying to figure out how we are going to put down as much as we can up front, and pay it off the rest as quickly as we can. We are keeping bees, and reading as much as we can about livestock and pasture management. We started volunteering at a bunch of different farms, and have found one whose general model we want to follow, though we’d like to stay smaller. We’ve got a plan, the first life plan I’ve had since I was a teenager, and are taking serious steps to make it happen.
In this, we’ve found a better way to eat. We’ve found work that makes us feel better in the big picture, though, the day to day has a lot of blood, tears, sweat and snot. Every step we make, this idea of unhooking a bit from jobs, but rather finding a way to make our home work for us, and give us more time to spend with each other, reaffirms our purpose and makes us more confident in the next step. And, now, with a baby on the way, we’ve rededicated ourselves to this path even more strongly. It just feels right.
What we do now may be gardening, what’s next is may be homesteading, or maybe farming, but what we *are* doing is building a life together based on the value of what we can do with our hands (or with a little help from critters.)
Recently, my wife and I went to a local event called “Tomatopalooza.” It was an odd series of events, but the short of it was I had stumbled across this affable fellow who grows tomato plants near by… and to understate, he *loves* tomatoes. He gave me a bunch of plants that I got in the ground late in the season, and told me about this event. As I was wandering around, tasting 166 different varieties of *tasty* tomatoes, I was struck by how different my life is these days, how different tomorrow will be, and how I wish my Grandad could taste some of the tomatoes I grow.